Welcome to Start/Sit, where I will break down the toughest calls you have on your roster every week. The point of this article is not to give you the best, top plays overall. That’s why we do projections that will highlight the best overall plays for your lineup.
Instead, we will focus on the players that you’re on the fence about and have a tough time deciding on. These are the QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs right on the borderline of your lineups.
As always, my DMs in Discord (@GrahamBarfield) are open for any Start/Sit questions you may have while Joe Dolan, Tom Brolley, John Hansen, and I will be streaming for subscribers on Sunday mornings to help answer any of your tough calls.
Unless stated otherwise, all of the data in this article is from Fantasy Points Data and specifically curated from the Data Suite. Our collection team has charted every play from every game over the last two seasons and we will have fresh, weekly data imported into the tools on Tuesday after the games.
Let’s get to it.
Geno Smith (vs. Rams)
We’re going to be dialing up quarterbacks against the Rams all season long in this space, so Geno Smith is first up. Outside of Aaron Donald, this L.A. defense lacks talent and depth across the board. The Seahawks are set up to get rolling early with the fourth-largest implied team scoring total (25.8) based on the over/under, trailing only the Chiefs (29), Chargers (27), and Ravens (26.8).
D.K. Metcalf combined for 11/167/1 (16 targets), while Tyler Lockett had 13/182/2 (19 targets) in two meetings vs. the Rams last season, and that was when they had Jalen Ramsey and Bobby Wagner. Make sure Metcalf and Lockett are locked and loaded into lineups.
Quarterback is really strong in Week 1, but Geno is a legitimate QB1 play.
Deshaun Watson (vs. Bengals)
While it wasn’t a shock that he was rusty, Watson’s on-field struggles with accuracy were a surprise last season. To be clear, I am not making excuses for him. But it’s of note that Watson also dealt with a league-high drop rate from his receivers while multiple games were mired by bad, windy weather late in the season.
This matchup vs. the Bengals isn’t a very easy one – Cincinnati gave up the 11th-fewest schedule-adjusted FP to QBs last season – but this game is one that could pop for a shootout. The Browns have underrated upside offensively, especially since we are projecting them to be more pass-heavy this season. HC Kevin Stefanski has spent all off-season saying that he wants Watson to use his legs more, which will likely give him even more rushing upside after he averaged 29.2 yards per game on the ground last season.
With Joe Burrow and the Bengals pushing the scoring pace on the other side, I’m expecting a back-and-forth, high-scoring game environment here. Watson projects as a back-end QB1 with a strong ceiling due to his rushing.
Daniel Jones (vs. Cowboys)
Jones and the Giants have a rough divisional matchup right out of the gates with one of the best and most athletic defenses in the league. Now, to be fair, Jones does have a lot more weapons at his disposal this time around with Darren Waller as his #1 target – but this Dallas defense is even better now with CB Stephon Gilmore bookending Trevon Diggs.
In two meetings vs. Dallas last year, Jones finished as the QB20 and QB19 in weekly fantasy points and was steadily under duress, absorbing eight sacks. Waller’s addition is massive, but does not outweigh Dallas having Micah Parsons and a great pass rush. Jones has the scrambling ability to overcome any bad matchup, but this is not a spot we should expect a big ceiling score. Jones is more of a high-end QB2 than QB1 start for Week 1.
Matthew Stafford (at Seattle)
No Cooper Kupp, no fun. Stafford is a mid-tier QB2 most weeks, but Kupp’s injury really zaps the upside here. What’s worse is this is a great matchup. Seattle allowed the 10th-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to QBs last season. Without Kupp, it makes Stafford a low-end QB2. We have him buried at QB26 in our Week 1 projections.
Streamers / SuperFlex Starts
Sam Howell (vs. Cardinals)
Washington gets the fortune of facing Arizona at home on Opening Day and is a massive 7-point favorite as a result. Only the Ravens (-10 vs. Houston) are stronger favorites.
This all sets up Sam Howell and the Commanders offense for a hot start. Howell also has underrated scrambling upside in a very similar way to Daniel Jones early in his career. Howell finished as the QB7 (19.3 FP) in his lone start last season, largely because he added 5/35/1 rushing.
Howell is a good start in SuperFlex leagues as a QB2 and has the rushing ceiling to score like a QB1. You hopefully drafted a better option, but Howell is the top streaming option of the week in 1-QB formats.
Raheem Mostert (at Chargers)
Anyone who drafted Mostert in the late rounds ran hot to close out the preseason, with Jeff Wilson landing on I.R. while Devon Achane (shoulder) has missed a lot of practice time. Achane is expected to play Week 1, however, Mostert should receive the bulk of the carries and get the goal-line work against what was a very weak Chargers run defense a year ago that allowed 5.42 YPC (most). Mostert is an RB2 start with top-15 positional upside if Miami is hitting on all cylinders offensively.
Jamaal Williams (vs. Titans)
Williams will be the Week 1 DFS chalk, and for good reason, based on his projected workload. With Kendre Miller (hamstring) limited, the Saints are very thin at running back until Kamara comes back in Week 4. Until then, Williams is set up to be among the league leaders in snaps early in the season. While his workload will be strong – I’m not all-in on Williams this week because the Titans' run defense deserves a lot of respect. Last season, Tennessee allowed the third-fewest schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to RBs (-3.6) and a league-low 3.35 YPC. Williams is right on the RB2/FLEX borderline.
Khalil Herbert (vs. Packers)
I considered moving Herbert into the “start” section, but Herbert is an excellent FLEX option.
We fully expect Herbert to be the “1A” runner of this backfield in Week 1. Herbert was on the field for 60% of the starter snaps (with QB Justin Fields) this preseason, while D’Onta Foreman operated as the RB3 in the rotation behind Roschon Johnson in their final game.
This all sets up Herbert for a runway of 14-16 carries as a (slight) home favorite against a bad run defense. Green Bay has largely underperformed defensively based on their talent, but did boast a pretty decent secondary last season. However, they really struggled against the run. RBs averaged 4.95 YPC (fifth-highest) vs. the Packers, and that resulted in Green Bay allowing the 10th-most schedule-adjusted FP to the position.
Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson (vs. Cardinals)
Arizona was gashed for 134.2 rush yards per game (13th-most) and a whopping 20 TDs (third-most) in their 13 losses last season, providing a runway for both Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson to crack into the RB2 mix for Week 1. Robinson has more TD upside as the projected goal-line RB, while Gibson has a little more appeal on PPR sites. Both of these RBs will be heavily involved in the game plan, and both make sense as borderline RB2’s (but mostly FLEX) plays.
I understand you may have to start Breece Hall in Week 1, but we are truly flying blind into this situation. Yes, we believe Hall is the better RB and has way more seasonal upside. But, will the team limit his carries coming back from knee surgery? Or, will the Jets use Hall as the “1A” and ease in Dalvin Cook instead? Who gets the goal-line work?
Ideally, you have an RB like Raheem Mostert to start over these Jets RBs until we get some clarity. Hall is the bigger play threat, so he’s the better option, but both he and Cook are low-floor FLEX plays for Week 1.
Miles Sanders (at Falcons)
Coming off a career-best year, the fantasy industry has largely soured on Sanders heading into 2023. I’m not down on Sanders at all, though, and believe he has a three-down role in his range of outcomes. Just not this week.
After sitting out most of training camp dealing with a minor groin injury, Sanders is practicing in full and will play Week 1. However, after missing so much practice time, it’s fair to wonder if the Panthers will ramp up Sanders over the next few weeks. Chuba Hubbard figures to mix in on passing downs, regardless.
As a 3.5-road underdog vs. Atlanta, Sanders profiles as a TD-dependent FLEX option for Week 1. The Panthers have the third-lowest implied team total (18 points) based on the over/under, besting only the Texans (16.8) and Cardinals (15.5).
Tyler Lockett (vs. Rams)
As we discussed with Geno Smith, we are dialing up the Seahawks pass game with confidence in Week 1. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett should be no-brainer WR2 starts this week against this Rams defense that allowed the fourth-most scheduled-adjusted FP to outside wide receivers last season… with Jalen Ramsey. Especially with Jaxon Smith-Njigba (wrist) potentially limited, Lockett is a sky-high upside play for Opening Day.
Jahan Dotson (vs. Cardinals)
With Terry McLaurin (toe) potentially out or limited for Week 1, Dotson projects as an amazing WR2 play against a secondary we will target all season long for receiver production. Dotson (12.6 FPG) nearly out-scored McLaurin (13.2 FPG) over their final five games played together last season. Dotson actually bested McLaurin (slightly) in YPRR (2.36 vs. 2.31), while their target shares were the exact same (22.5%) in this span. By the numbers, Dotson might end up surpassing McLaurin this season as the WR1.
Mike Williams (vs. Dolphins)
You’re already dialing up Keenan Allen as a clear start this week, but we can also look to Mike Williams for Week 1 ceiling production. The Dolphins are going to be changing from a man-heavy coverage scheme to more Cover-3 shell coverage changing from DC Vic Fangio this season, and both of these Charger WRs fared similarly vs. Cover-3 last year.
Allen was the #1 lead target (0.25 targets per route run) vs. Cover-3, but Williams (0.22 TPRR) was not too far behind. Efficiency-wise, both receivers fared well, with Allen averaging 2.40 YPRR while Williams averaged 2.22 YPRR vs. Cover-3.
Williams has been one of the most frustrating, but productive receivers in the league over the last two seasons. Across his last 30 games where he’s played at least 60% of the snaps, Williams has averaged 13.5 Half-PPR points per game – which would have tied DeAndre Hopkins for the WR10 finish last season.
Keenan Allen is a borderline WR1 play for Opening Day while Williams profiles as a high-upside WR2 in what is the second-highest total game (51.5 O/U) of the week.
Courtland Sutton (vs. Raiders)
With Jerry Jeudy (hamstring) extremely iffy to play Week 1, Courtland Sutton is set up for 7-9 targets as Russell Wilson’s clear lead receiver. I know, I know. Sutton was a massive bust last season, and it’s painful to go back to him to start the season. However, we kind of have to throw away everything we thought about this offense last year with a brand new coaching staff and scheme. Additionally, in the four games that Jeudy missed or left early last year, Sutton was a good WR2 for fantasy. Without Jeudy, Sutton had games of 7/122, 6/66, 5/80, and 6/75 receiving.
Ravens WRs (vs. Texans)
This has nothing to do with the matchup and everything to do with the uncertainty regarding playing time here. There is 100% certainty that this Ravens passing offense is going to be drastically different with a shift towards more 3-WR formations, but with Rashod Bateman (foot) returning from an injury – I’m expecting Odell Beckham and Zay Flowers to operate as the Ravens top-2 wideouts for Week 1.
I’d rank this group Flowers > OBJ > Bateman for Week 1, with Flowers and OBJ projecting as weak WR4 options despite the fact we are expecting the Ravens offense to crush offensively. Bateman is a complete Week 1 fade since he just returned to practice a few weeks ago and missed a lot of the new offense’s install period. Mark Andrews remains the play.
Marquise Brown (at Commanders)
Whether it’s Clayton Tune or Josh Dobbs under center (it’s expected to be Dobbs), you can’t seriously entertain playing Marquise Brown here. Brown is a great WR4 depth option and has WR2 potential when Kyler Murray returns, but there is no reason to risk Brown’s low floor, given this QB situation in Week 1. Washington is not a matchup to be afraid of – they will be better with the addition of CB Emmanuel Mosley – but, you likely have other better FLEX options at RB than Brown this week.
Gabe Davis (at Jets)
While we are buying a post-hype bounceback from Gabe Davis this season, we get the absolute worst matchup out of the gates against Sauce Gardner and the Jets brutally tough secondary.
I say this every year – there are typically only 2-3 defenses that we need to be actively afraid of in fantasy football. The Jets are one of them.
Last season, New York allowed -8.6 (!!) schedule-adjusted FP below their opponents' average to opposing outside WRs. This was easily the toughest matchup in the league for WRs and might get even tougher this season. Davis is a boom-or-bust WR4 in this spot.
Tyler Higbee (at Seahawks)
Higbee is always the back-end TE1 that you never want to start. Time is a flat circle in Week 1.
Well, without Cooper Kupp (hamstring), the Rams will have to rely on Higbee especially. It’s a “hold your nose play” … but it makes sense. Higbee is one of the 5-6 TEs we can project the upside to see 8-9 targets and this happens to be a great matchup. Seattle allowed the most fantasy points per game to TEs last year after allowing the 7th-most FP to TEs the year prior.
Juwan Johnson (vs. Titans)
If you just lost Travis Kelce for Week 1, Johnson is likely available on waivers and has an ideal matchup. The Titans' defense struggled mightily vs. tight ends last year, allowing the second-most schedule-adjusted FP to TEs (+3.3). Johnson was a quality streamer in good matchups last season, averaging 9.7 Half-PPR points per game in six matchups vs. bottom-10 pass defenses. That would have just edged out Dallas Goedert (9.6 FPG) as the TE5 last year.
Sam LaPorta (at Chiefs)
LaPorta is the secondary streamer to chase for Week 1. We’re projecting him to be a full-time starter out of the gates, which gives him pretty intriguing upside as potentially the Lions’ #3 target behind St. Brown and Gibbs. I’m treating this rookie group of tight ends a lot differently than in years past and expect a quicker acclimation than we’re accustomed to with rookies, and that especially applies to LaPorta.
As a combined group, Lions tight ends combined for 6 end-zone targets last season – which would have tied George Kittle for the league lead. With a high-scoring environment likely, LaPorta makes sense as an upside streamer.
Rankings derived from my Pace/Plays/Passing game model.
1. KC vs. DET
2. TB vs. MIN
3. LAC vs. MIA
4. NYJ vs. BUF
5. CLE vs. CIN
12. PIT vs. SF
13. BAL vs. HOU
14. NO vs. TEN
15. CHI vs. GB
16. ATL vs. CAR
Don’t be overly confident in Week 1…
Just a reminder: Even the Sportsbooks have a rough time setting lines on Opening Day.
Favorites are typically a little overvalued in Week 1.
The favored team is 27-36-1 against the spread (covered 42.1% of games) over the last four years. Across all other non-Week 1 games, the favorite covers 48% of the time.